Precious artifacts smuggled out of Thailand return home after decades in New York City museum

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The invaluable artifacts were once illegally smuggled out of Thailand and displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Two bronze sculptures, the ‘Golden Boy’ and the ‘Kneeling Female Figure’ have finally returned to their homeland after decades in the United States.

These invaluable artifacts were once illegally smuggled out of Thailand and displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.



A Long Journey Home
The story of these artifacts’ repatriation began in December 2023 when the Met announced its intention to return the two pieces to Thailand. This decision followed the discovery of evidence suggesting their illicit acquisition and export from the country, said the director-general of the Fine Arts Department

In response, the Thai Department of Fine Arts dispatched Ms. Nitaya Kanokmongkol, Director of the Office of the National Museums, to New York in April 2024 to collaborate with the Met on the authentication and repatriation process. This fruitful collaboration culminated in the official handover of the artifacts today, May 20, 2024.

A Formal Welcoming Ceremony
To honor the momentous occasion, a formal welcoming ceremony will be held tomorrow, May 21 at the National Museum in Bangkok. Presided over by the Minister of Culture, the ceremony will mark the official return of these cultural treasures to Thai soil.




Public Exhibition and Ongoing Research
Following the ceremony, the Golden Boy and the Kneeling Female Figure will be put on display for the public. The Department of Fine Arts also plans to conduct in-depth studies of the artifacts, examining their composition, casting techniques, and ancient stylistic elements. These investigations aim to enrich Thailand’s understanding of its rich cultural heritage.

Golden Boy: A National Treasure
The Standing Shiva or Golden Boy, a captivating sculpture dating back to about 1,000 years, stands 129 centimeters tall. Its estimated value exceeds 100 million baht. Archaeological evidence confirms that the statue was unearthed in Ban Yang Pong Sadao, Lahansai District, Buriram Province. (TNA)